Global Call for Non-Violent Civil Resistance to End the Occupation of Iraq

A number of prominent names in the international anti-war movement (including such American war tax resisters as Kathy Kelly, Susan Crane, and Cindy Sheehan) have signed on to A Global Call for Non-Violent Civil Resistance to End the US-led Occupation of Iraq.

Long-time Picket Line readers will know that I have been very critical of some of the large-scale anti-war declarations that have come out, for instance ’s “Appeal to Global Conscience” and an early draft of the “Pledge of Resistance.”

Some of these pledges and appeals are really pleas for other people (particularly those people who have no interest in their advice) to please stop perpetrating this war they’ve gone to so much trouble to start, while we complain about them and demonstrate our self-righteousness by writing down our signatures.

I contrasted these milquetoast appeals with the sort of concrete and effective call to action that is perhaps best represented by the resolution that launched the Montgomery Bus Boycott :

[That] resolution formally spelled out the segregation policy of the city of Montgomery and specifically the Montgomery City Lines, Incorporated bus company, and then made very specific demands — not of them, but of every citizen in Montgomery, first and foremost [of] those citizens who were assembled to listen to and vote on the resolution…

I thought that a new and improved “Pledge of Resistance” did a better job, as did “A Call to Resist the War in Iraq” (although I haven’t seen much evidence of results yet from either one).

How does this new “global call” stand up?

Pretty well: on the plus side, it’s very title demonstrates that it is a call for action on the part of us, not them. And they’ve put some thought into what is meant by things like “civil disobedience” and “nonviolent resistance,” which is a very good sign.

When it comes to specifics, however, the emphasis does seem to be on the sort of symbolic, “cargo cult” civil disobedience tactics that aren’t good for much aside from building an arrest record and getting 45 seconds on the nightly news:

A group could sit down in the entrance of a U.S. or British government installation in any country, refusing to leave when the U.S. Marines or other security agents order them to disperse. They could insist on having a meeting with the ambassador or the officer in charge of the military base, or they could wait for a clear statement from Washington, D.C., or from London of the date when all their soldiers will be withdrawn from Iraq.

If those doing civil resistance are not able to enter U.S. or British property, they could sit down on the street or sidewalk in front of the building or base, or they could lie down in a “die-in” representing the victims of the war. In any case those involved in civil resistance might be carried out of the building or away from the entrance and arrested by the police.

The impact of these actions on public opinion, the mass media, and governments would come from their sheer quantity and geographical diversity, on the same day, as well as from the clarity of their message and the disciplined nonviolence of the tactics. As this invitation spreads through the internet and other media, we expect that hundreds of actions could be held in scores of countries around the world, all with the same purpose — to demand an end to the violent military occupation of Iraq.

But the call leaves room for a variety of non-violent resistance tactics, and certainly doesn’t exclude more effective and direct action:

We, the undersigned, invite peace-makers throughout the world to participate in an international campaign of massive, nonviolent civil resistance to stop the U.S.-led occupation of Iraq. These actions could be organized to include both non-violent civil resistance and legal demonstrations.

Of course, the proof of such a pudding is in the eating. If the upcoming events turn in to yet-another-peace-parade with a handful of people being led away from “die-ins” in zip-tie cuffs by grim-faced cops — the same sort of protests that haven’t really made a dent in “business as usual” several times now — the results will be easy to predict. If on the other hand the people who oppose the war and the torture policy do come to believe that to march and chant and plead isn’t enough and that they have to move from protest to resistance, the war will be over, because that’s how it’s done.